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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

March 12, 2013 at 5:26 PM

Senators aim to prevent ‘flash robs’ with organized retail theft bill

For many people, flash mobs are a delightful fad. Videos of performers breaking into dance in train stations, parks and shopping malls are popular on YouTube. But Washington state senators are worried the trend could take a more sinister form: flash robs.

Sen. Mike Carrell said he introduced a bill in response to a group of teens staging a flash rob at a Portland Nordstrom last April. The Lakewood Republican said there haven’t been any flash robs in Washington, and he hopes the legislation will prevent them from occurring.

Under Senate Bill 5178, groups of at least six people who steal at least $500 in merchandise can be charged with organized retail theft. The group must also have used electronic communication – emails, text messages or social media – to organize the theft.

Current state law allows groups who steal $750 in merchandise to be charged with organized retail theft

Sen. Mike Padden spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that technological advances make flash robs tempting and inevitable.

“Especially with social media the way it is today, this could happen almost instantly,” said Padden, R-Spokane. “Boom. What you’ve got is 15 to 20 people stealing from you.”

Senate Democrats joined the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus to pass the bill unanimously on Tuesday.

0 Comments | More in Politics Northwest, State Legislature | Topics: flash robs, organized retail theft, Sen. Mike Carrell

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